Nobody said this stretch of the Devils schedule would be easy. They have played been playing teams that currently stand in an Eastern Conference playoff position for the last two weeks. You had to know at some point the cluster of teams in the East would begin to break as the contenders separated from the pretenders. Right now, the Devils are definitely pretenders.
The Columbus Blue Jackets came into Prudential Center battling with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They had seemed to have gotten there as they shut out the Devils 3-0 while the Pens were losing to the Buffalo Sabres. Ultimately, Pittsburgh would come back to beat the Sabres in regulation, so they would retain the second spot in the Metro Division standings.
Meanwhile, the Devils’ winless streak moves to seven games and the team has been dealing with a decimated roster. Andy Greene is still out dealing with a personal issue while Damon Severson and Miles Wood were banged up in the Boston game yesterday. They are calling Wood’s injury a “lower body” issue, but it is nothing serious. Jacob Josefson and Michael Cammalleri are both still out with upper body injuries. In some good news after all of that, Pavel Zacha was activated off of injured reserve where he had been dealing with a concussion. To deal with some of the injuries, Karl Stollery was recalled from Albany. He, much like fellow call-up Nick Lappin, who played yesterday against the Bruins, has played three games in three days AHL and NHL combined.
Dalton Prout and Kyle Quincey were playing against each other for their new teams. The two defensemen were, of course, traded for each other at the NHL trading deadline last week. For Quincey, being traded is not a new thing, he has done this before. But for Prout, the Blue Jackets were the team that drafted him and he has known no other team, so this was new to him. Quincey would also be involved in a bizarre play in the second period in his return to The Rock.
The goaltending matchup saw Cory Schneider make his sixth straight start for New Jersey. He made 19 saves on 22 Columbus shots for a .864 save percentage. Going for the Jackets was their workhorse Sergei Bobrovsky. He saw 20 shots and got all of them for a perfect 1.000 save percentage as the Devils got shut out for the second time this week.
It has been 16 days since the Devils last victory, a win at home over the New York Islanders.
After a scoreless first period and some chances for the Devils, particularly Taylor Hall, Boone Jenner got the Blue Jackets on the board. He scored his 13th from Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky to put them up 1-0 at the 2:45 mark of the second. Jenner actually poked Cory’s stick to push it past him, never actually touching the puck. The puck may have gone in off of Prout in front as well.
Oliver Bjorkstrand doubled the Jackets’ lead when he scored at 5:35 of the second period. He got assists from Sam Gagner and David Savard. Now the Devils were in a hole.
The strange play that Quincey was involved in happened at the 19:47 mark of the second period. Initially, the call on the ice was too many men on the ice against the Blue Jackets. It was later changed to an illegal substitution as Columbus never actually had too many men on the ice. What happened was that Quincey tried to exit the rink on a change but went into the space between the benches where MSG Network’s John MacLean stands. The rule is that a player must leave the playing surface through the player bench. If they exit by any other means, it is a penalty. The Devils would have almost two full minutes of power play time on fresh ice in the third period but were unable to do anything with it. New Jersey ended the night 0-for-3 with the man advantage while Columbus was 0-for-1.
Gagner ended a 30 game goal scoring drought and icing the game for the Jackets. He scored at 8:56 of the third from Bjorkstrand and Scott Hartnell to make it 3-0 Columbus.
So, from here the Devils travel to Columbus to complete the home-and-home with the Blue Jackets on Tuesday and then travel west for their final western road swing of the year. They will see the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes on that trip. But, first thing’s first. They want to get off of this skid and win one at Nationwide Arena. A place where it is tough for the opposition to win but not impossible, something the Devils proved when they won there last month.